Today’s Inspiration: When Less is More at Christmas

I’m this mom…are you too?

I am the crazy, type A mommy who is convinced when Christmas rolls around the kids and I need to squeeze in as many holiday experiences as we can. Every weekend (and weeknights when I’m not schlepping kids to their other activities), I book and fill with holiday-related events and activities. We go to view Christmas lights at all the popular (and some non-popular) places in town. We go on the Train to Christmas Town, we visit the Botanical Gardens to view the holiday lights, we make a trip to see Santa, we bake cookies, we shop, we pick an Angel from an Angel Tree, we wrap gifts, we listen to Christmas music every minute we are in the car, we make ornaments, we watch as many Christmas movies and shows on TV that we can (and the rest get recorded so we don’t miss them)……the list goes on and on. My goal: we are going to visit EVERY Christmas event we can find in the area, and you, dear kiddos, are going to enjoy every single minute of it.

What happens? Based on last year and years past, I ended up being a grumpy, exhausted mother, and I was way too stressed trying to plan so much that I felt like there was no time to enjoy the Christmas season. Seriously—all those activities, and I didn’t feel like I enjoyed any of it. My kids were whiny. “Do we really have to go see one more Christmas thing?” groaned my oldest. “Haven’t we made enough cookies and candy already?” My attempt to make it the Best Christmas Ever ended up being the most Stressed Christmas Ever.

This year, I took a different approach. As guilty as I felt for paring down, I asked the girls what things were most important to do this Christmas. They named a few of their favorites and which activities they felt were most important, and I decided we’d focus on those events. Only those events. Three days until Christmas, and this year has been the most relaxing holiday season in a long, long time.  Instead of running around like lunatics trying to fit everything in, we’ve stayed at home more and the kids have had more time to just chill out, play at home, and enjoy some much-needed free time. Instead of dragging three kids through stores crowded with holiday shoppers and waiting forever in checkout lines, I’ve completed almost all of my Christmas shopping online.  We’ve had more time as a family this past month to spend playing board games, eat dinner together, and reconnect with each other.

What did I learn by slowing down this Christmas?

The holidays aren’t about what you do, they are about who you spend them with. I got to spend time cuddling my girls, I got to read and play with them, and there was less whining because I wasn’t constantly yelling at everyone to get their shoes on and get in the car so we could run to something else.

It has been The Best Christmas Ever.

Who knew that doing less would actually make the holidays mean so much more?

Today’s Inspiration: The Truth

Here’s the truth:

My kids eat out more than they eat in because I hate to cook. There is junk food in my house all the time. I could be more fit, but I can easily come up with excuses to not work out. I’m lucky if I can manage to get all the kids to bed by 8pm, and one of the twins sleeps in my room almost every night. I don’t know how parents manage all their kids’ activities each week–it exhausts me so I limit how much they do. Eric travels often, and I find single parenting those weeks to be stressful. I am awful at asking for help. My daughter is way better at math (and pretty much every subject) than I am. I am not a good decorator. I volunteer, but not as much as I should. I have a ton of Pinterest boards but I hardly go back and use what I’ve pinned. I am not very crafty. I love the friends I have, but I love being alone often. I have many friends, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a BFF. This is me. My life is not perfect and I’m not good at much. But I love my husband and my kids and my friends/family fiercely, and we are happy. That’s most important to me.

Today’s Inspiration: Work or Stay Home?

After my oldest daughter was born, I struggled with a big decision…should I work or stay at home?

I already had made rather large decision before getting pregnant with her. I decided to leave my big corporate job in marketing to pursue my dream of becoming a librarian. I was good at marketing, was making great money, I had my MBA, and I was moving up the ladder quickly, but I wasn’t happy. I worked hard, stayed late to accomplish more than my job description, and I was a perfectionist about materials I created; but I didn’t get super-excited to go to work every day. However, when I walked into a book store or library…THAT felt like home. It sounds geeky, but I couldn’t wait for free evenings or weekends to arrive so I could head to the library. I loved finding information and researching materials. Before I met Eric, I considered going to law school and had been accepted—but I put that on the back burner to continue my relationship with him. I figured I could combine my interest in both and work as a law or legal librarian. That was exciting and interesting to me. So I quit my Big Job, and I was hired for a part-time position at the local library. I was excited to gain experience while applying to schools to work towards my Master of Library and Information Science.

Then, I found out I was pregnant. Months earlier, I had miscarried our first pregnancy early on, so while Eric and I were excited we were aware that things could go wrong again. I continued to work and apply to schools while this small little being began growing in my belly.

As I got closer to my third trimester, I knew I wanted to keep working after the birth, but I decided that I would wait and apply to graduate programs the following year. That would give me a year to get more library work experience under my belt and some time to adjust as a new parent. I would work part-time and my baby would go to day care while I worked. I was convinced I was the working type, and that I could never “just stay home”.

I remember working up until the day my daughter was born, still planning to return to the library two months after the baby arrived. Then I became a mom. I heard my daughter’s little cry, I watched her sleep and fed her, and I wondered how in the world would I be able to leave her at a day care while I headed to work for a few hours each day? Eric told me he would support whatever I thought was best for me. Luckily, Eric had a great job so there was no pressure for me to have to work. I just needed to decide what I thought was best for me and for our baby.

Would I be a better mother if I worked? Or would I resent my decision?

The same questions went through my head when I thought about staying home.

Would I be a better mother if I stayed home? Or would I resent my decision?

Two weeks before having to return to work, I took a deep breath and called my supervisor. I told her that as much as I wanted to work, I wanted most to be with my baby. I felt it was best for me if I stayed home to care for her. The job and school would wait.

I remember hanging up and crying about my decision. Had I made the right one? Would I regret staying home? I was good at work—what if I wasn’t good at this stay-at-home mom job?

It’s been eleven years of staying home and two additional kids later. I don’t regret being home because it’s what I chose. I love my time with my girls, I enjoy volunteering in their classroom and I enjoyed spending my days caring for them when they weren’t in school.  I work part-time at a preschool now (nothing I saw myself doing way back when!), and it’s been a great job that allows me to get home from work before the kids get off the bus. I do struggle with my identity though. I know I’m a mom, but what have I accomplished that is all mine? Could I have been, should I have been some career title? Some nights, I get on the computer and I look at Library and Information Science programs and check out law schools and wonder if I’m too old to go back. On the flip side, if I went back, would I really want to work full-time again and deal with work deadlines and stress while dealing with three girls and all of their needs? My husband works crazy-long hours and travels often. I see how pressed he is to meet deadlines and complete work projects, and I wonder what it would be like if both of us were in that boat, feeling the same way. How much crazier would our routine at home be? Who would go to the kids’ events at school? Who would watch them when they are sick and need to stay home? Who would pick them up from after-school activities? I’m grateful that I am able to fairly easily, but I always wonder what my life would’ve been like as a career mom.

How does that saying go? The grass is always greener on the other side? I guess I’ll always wonder if the grass would’ve been greener.

Today’s Inspiration: The Importance of Being Nice

I think I have a problem. I am told often I am nice.

I know, most of you will tell me that’s not a problem. It’s a good issue to have. It’s good to be nice. But other people that can relate to being in this category might agree with me–being nice is just, well…nice. It’s rather boring-sounding…friendly, dependable, kind, helpful, easy-going. It sounds like I’m describing a dog.  Nice doesn’t sound very exciting at all.

I have friends who speak their mind all the time–no filter at all. Sometimes I wish I could be more outspoken like them. They say what they want when they want to. They don’t care about whose feelings get hurt (or they don’t seem to). They always speak out and do everything their way. If they are happy, it’s all good.  Some people I know won’t help others or rarely do. “I’m not helping/donating to school because I don’t like my child’s teacher,” is a response I’ve heard. When I’m asked to help out, I say yes more often than I want to, and sometimes I wish I could feel less guilty when I say no. I wonder how freeing that might feel to say and do whatever I choose to do.

But is that being free, or are they just mean and narcissistic? Is the person who doesn’t help, often aggressively speaks her mind, or speaks out about everything someone to be admired for who she is?

Of course I’ve had lots of moments where I could have spoken out in a situation, gotten defensive, said a hundred mean and hurtful things to others, but I bite my tongue. Sure, I will confront and be assertive when I really need to, but I’m not trying to do it defensively or aggressively. Sometimes, though, it’s easier to walk away rather than speak mean words back to an already mean person. And I will refuse to help out or I will vote down an idea when I have valid reasons to. Everyone has limits. But there’s no need to be mean about it.

There have been dozens of times I’ve been asked to help or I’ve been in a situation with a mean person that I’d love to throw angry words at (unfortunately “meanies” exist well after high school–I guess I was naive to think that people outgrew it). My husband, the voice of reason, will remind me, “Julie, do the right thing.” And I do–I always choose to do the right thing. I kill them with kindness. I choose nice words to use in response.  I say yes, and help out, hoping that one day the favor would be returned if I need help of my own.

Yes, I think it is important to be nice. Sure, it sounds rather boring. “Do you know Julie? Yes, she’s really nice.” Blah. Nice, nice, nice. But in the end, I’d much rather be known as a nice girl than hear these words said about me….”Do you know Julie? Did you hear what she said to so-and-so?  I can’t believe she was so mean!” Being known as nice means friends and family and the community can depend on you. Nice means you choose kindness over all else. Nice means you care enough to be concerned about other’s feelings. Nice means you think before you respond, and you try to choose to do what’s right for others (and for you).

You make choices every day, and you choose how you will respond to everything around you. Choose wisely.


Today’s Inspiration: My Kitchen

This is my kitchen. The most amazing things happen here. No, I’m not an incredible cook. My husband isn’t either. We spend more time in this room than any other. In this kitchen, Eric and I say goodbye and hello to each other when he’s in town and heads to/from work. My girls sit at this counter and they tell me how their day was, what made them laugh, and what they worry about. I give some of my best advice at this island. Dance parties happen here. This kitchen is a room where creativity happens, where decisions are made, where friends sit when they come to visit, where tears fall, and where hugs are given. It’s a room full of love and family. The most amazing things happen in this kitchen.

Today’s Inspiration: Meeting The One

When I was younger, people would constantly tell me, “When you meet the right one, you’ll know.” Did you? I sure didn’t. I met Eric when I was living in St. Louis and he was here in Charlotte. He was friendly and seemed nice, but that was it for awhile–just a friend that was fun to hang out with when I visited family in Charlotte, was easy to talk to, and someone who made me laugh a lot once I got to know him. I didn’t have an inkling that Eric was “the one”. Not one. I liked artsy guys or extreme sport ones, not banker dudes. That was not for me. Those guys sounded so boring.

While I was searching through the wrong ones, God was patient–two years patient–and one day it clicked for me when a friend of mine said, “All you talk about is this Eric friend of yours. Why aren’t you dating him? It sounds like you enjoy spending time with him.” Luckily, Eric was thinking the same thing; and we agreed that we’d be a great team together.

I’m so blessed that even though it took some time, what I needed and what was my “one” the entire time was right in front of me.

Today’s Inspiration: Mommy Mess-Up…I Forgot My Kids

Being a mom is tough—seriously. Most days, I really suck at it. Last week was one of those weeks. To be honest, this week is starting out that way too. Actually, most weeks are at least partly full of mom mess-ups.

Last Friday, I forgot to get the twins at school—I’m not even kidding. I stood at the bus stop that afternoon and waited, and waited for the bus to arrive. The bus came, but Madison and Claire did not get off the bus. I couldn’t believe they would have gotten on the wrong bus. Then the light bulb flashed in my head through all my brain fog and through all the stuff piled up on my imaginary plate. I had written a note to the teachers that the girls would be walkers, and I would come get them up at the school. So, 30 minutes after school had let out, I rushed up to the elementary school, and I found my girls standing in the school office, waiting for me to come get them. Madison, my straightforward child, had her arms crossed in front of her and gave me her “you messed up” look and eye roll. She also reminded me that I forgot to give her a water bottle for the day, and I also forgot to fill in her reading log indicating how many minutes she read the night before. She got over it, and I felt bad for forgetting Madison’s things, but I had huge mommy guilt for forgetting to get the girls at school. What mom does that? What mom forgets her actual kids?

This mom does. I’m not making excuses for my absentmindedness or for my “I Forgot My Kids” episode on Friday. Like most moms, I’m one that has a ton on my plate (it is a turkey platter-sized plate by the way). I have a husband who travels and is away one or two weeks each month, which leaves me doing the single mom gig often. When he is in town, he works long hours, getting home well after the girls’ bedtime. That leaves me as the sole parent almost every night to help with homework, to drive all three girls to their after-school activities (thank gosh for carpools, which are a lifesaver on the nights we are double-booked with sports), and to cook and clean up dinner each night. I have to remind the girls to shower and get ready for bed, make sure they’ve picked out their clothes and have packed their backpacks for the next day, and after about thirty minutes of needing bedtime drinks and arguing about not being tired, I finally get everyone tucked away. Once everyone is settled in for the night, I work on my preschool lesson plans, make lunches for the next day, get laundry folded and put away, iron clothes, empty the dishwasher, and complete all the other home-based chores that need done daily. Don’t even get me started on all the other weekly errands on my list that are such a JOY to do with children in tow—grocery shopping, pick up dry cleaning, and trips to Target. Do I watch TV? Hardly—there’s not enough time in my day. Read a book? I try—but I usually fall asleep as soon as my head hits the bed pillow.  When I get a few free minutes, I write (like now) or I scroll through Facebook to try to keep up with what the people I know are up to.

When I look at the list of what I do as a mom each day (and what a lot of other moms I know complete daily), I know it’s OK to have a forgetful afternoon. Yes, with so much going on last Friday, I forgot my children of all things. You know what? They were safe at school, and it had never happened before (although it could happen again in the future). It taught my girls (and reminded me) that this mom is only human. This mom is not perfect and doesn’t try to be because no one can get everything right all the time. I make mistakes and screw up—a lot.  It’s OK. There will be more bad days—and I will let those days and challenges inspire me to take a deep breath and keep trucking on.  As parents, we are just doing the best we can.

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Today’s Inspiration: Singletons

Every day, I’m amazed by my sweet, oldest daughter, Avery. I’m sure she’s no different than most girls her age, but my mind only thinks in twin mode. How could I not? I’ve always been “one of the twins”. Then, of all miracles, I have my own set of twins. I watch Claire and Madison while at the playground, and I know exactly what my twin girls are thinking–we aren’t ever alone. If we get nervous or feel small, we have each other. I had that with my twin sister too. Instant friend, someone to giggle with, someone who understood all my feelings and fears, someone to share secrets with anytime I wanted to, someone to give me comfort anytime I needed it. How does Avery do it all alone, single-handedly, I wonder? Seriously…it must be so difficult to walk into a party alone as a kid, to start middle school in a new building on her own, to figure out her own homework without a homework buddy sitting next to her. This girl impresses me so much every day. I’m in awe of how she gracefully and easily manages being a non-twin. She is a rock star in my eyes!


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Today’s Inspiration: When the Beast Overshadows Beauty

A friend posted a picture on Facebook a couple months ago and tagged me. It was of me, her, and a friend of hers at a social event. I quickly untagged myself from the photo. Why? I wasn’t pretty enough in the picture. There was my friend, standing in a model pose, looking confident and cool. Her friend stood in a similar pose, tan and fit with a gorgeous smile. Where did they learn how to pose like that, I wondered? I looked like someone who tried to photo-bomb the picture. There I was, standing with my back and legs straight, my arms hanging at my sides, in a dress that might have been in style five years ago. Looking at the image, I felt like a middle-aged woman that was trying to fit in, wasn’t sure how to, and clearly wasn’t beautiful enough to be in the photo with the other two amazing women.

The word “beautiful” stuck in my head that entire afternoon, along with a mental image of that photo. The more I thought about that photo, the more I was angry at myself. Why? I was letting my perception affect me of what friends and society would think when they saw that picture.  I was the one deciding I wasn’t pretty enough. I was worried about the superficial–the way I visually looked in one singular photo. I was comparing my looks to others (no one else was).  I was disappointed in myself for untagging myself from that photo….because what is the definition of beautiful after all? And who was ultimately turning me into a beast in the picture? ME–I was the one proclaiming I wasn’t pretty enough to be seen. Instead of celebrating a picture of me having fun with my friend and enjoying our time at the event, I was more concerned what people would think about how I looked in that photo.

Who decides what is beautiful, anyway? Here’s what I think is beautiful:  Beautiful is how my daughter gives me a butterfly kiss every night before bed, her little eyelashes rubbing against my cheek as she giggles and whispers goodnight. Beautiful is how my hand fits perfectly into my husband’s hand when we walk along together. Beautiful is when my oldest daughter slides into the back seat of the car after a cross country practice, sweaty and her ponytail a mess–but so excited to tell me how she rocked it on the trail. Beauty is in every thing, every person, every day, every minute, every failure, and every success. One picture or one event does not define beauty–it’s our life and how we choose to celebrate it and share it that defines what beauty is. We just have to look for the “pretty”–because it’s there even when we forget it is.


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